‘Signs' of diversity

June 7, 2012

Many signs greet students and visitors on the Indiana State University campus this summer.

Some point the way to the new John W. Moore Welcome Center. Others guide incoming students to orientation.

But another group of signs offers guidance of a different sort.

"Without diversity, the canvas of life would be blank," proclaims a sign bearing a statement submitted by Emily C.J. Price, a junior social work major.

"Diversity means valuing and respecting the differences in individuals who we think are not like us," said Julia Bruce, administrative assistant in Indiana State's Charles E. Brown African-American Cultural Center.

"Diversity is not what we learn but how we learn," offered Richard Toomey, associate vice president for enrollment management.

The university's Office of Diversity has produced more than 150 of the 18-inch by 24-inch yard signs featuring comments from students, faculty, staff and alumni. For now, they are concentrated outside buildings housing new student orientation sessions to encourage incoming students to consider the people from different cultures and experiences who they will encounter in a university setting.

Because Indiana State attracts students from all areas of the state - from Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana and Indianapolis to rural farming communities and everywhere in between - as well as throughout the United States and internationally, the university offers many students opportunities for their first day-to-day exposure to people from a wide variety of backgrounds, said Elonda Ervin, diversity director.

"We want to highlight ISU's commitment to inclusion and we wanted a visual representation of that commitment," Ervin said.Since opening its doors, Indiana State has historically had significant diversity in its student body, faculty and staff, but the make-up of faculty and staff is not keeping pace with changes among its student population, she said.

"We have to focus more on what people think diversity is. It is not just about race and gender," Ervin said. "We are at a precipice and could go either way, so we need to be pro-active in creating an inclusive environment that will nurture and embrace multicultural students, staff and faculty at ISU. The only way to increase and retain great students, staff and faculty from a variety of backgrounds is to have an environment that is welcoming."

A sign bearing the thoughts of Petulia Blake-Scontrino, a Ph.D. student in human resources development and training, seems to underscore the importance of Indiana State's initiative:

"Diversity is fundamental to our human experience and must be embraced if we intend to make progress."

In addition to the yard signs, Ervin's office has created a fact sheet on the topic that will be distributed to incoming students and is available online at http://www.indstate.edu/diversity/Glance%20Brochure.pdf

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Diversity-Signs/i-zmBx4fk/0/L/060612DIVERSITYSIGNS-3259front-L.jpg - Indiana State University is using yard signs such as these to promote diversity in all of its forms. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Elonda Ervin, diversity officer, Indiana State University, 812-237-8513 or elonda.ervin@indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu